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'I am here to make you uncomfortable'

January 23, 2024 06:52 IST
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'Playing for India was my dream and when I get tired, I always remind myself of this. That's where the smile is from.'

IMAGE: Jasprit Bumrah says he likes to enjoy cricket as it 'means a lot' to him. Photograph: BCCI

Jasprit Bumrah revealed the secret behind his 'unorthodox' slingy bowling action which has been instrumental in making one of the leading fast bowlers in world cricket.

'In my head, growing up, I was never unorthodox. It wasn't until I joined a national junior camp and saw a video of myself [that he saw he was different]. I was just bowling fast and taking wickets, it never occurred to me. Now it's my strength,' Bumrah told The Guardian newspaper's Ali Martin in an exclusive interview ahead of the five Test series against England, starting on Thursday.

'It may have gotten jumbled up from watching lots of different bowlers on television but I've been fortunate: No coach has ever tried to change me.'

On what made him take up fast bowling when most Indian kids over the years have been keen to emulate either Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar or Virat Kohli, Bumrah said, 'I don't know the switch that turned me on to fast bowling, but it has always been fast bowling.'

'I was never interested in high scoring games, or batsmen scoring big runs, hitting fours and sixes.'

IMAGE: Jasprit Bumrah's yorker cleans up Sri Lanka Captain Dimuth Karunaratne during the Bengaluru Test in March 2022. Photograph: BCCI

He also threw light on how he perfected his deadly toe-crushing yorkers by bowling at skirting boards inside his home in Ahmedabad as a young boy.

'Summers in India can be really hot in the afternoon and parents don't let kids out. I was a hyperactive kid, lots of energy, but my mother would sleep in the afternoon.

'Then I found that if I bowled a ball into the skirting board, it didn't make a sound. So I could bowl without disturbing her, no issues. I did not imagine at the time it would develop into a yorker, I really didn't know what one was."

Had it not been for former India coach John Wright, then the talent scout at Mumbai Indians, Bumrah would have migrated to Canada before anyone noticed his cricketing talent.

'I was just a happy accident,' is how Bumrah describes of him getting spotted by Wright in 2013 during a T20 match. The Kiwi had come down to watch Axar Patel, but Bumrah ended up getting noticed.

Despite being one of the best fast bowlers in the world across formats, Bumrah says he is happy to judge himself on his performances in Test cricket.

'I am of that generation where Test cricket is king. I will always judge myself on it. Yes I started with IPL, but I learned to bowl through first-class cricket; that's where I developed my skill, the art of taking wickets.'

'In Test cricket you have to get the batsman out and that challenges you as a bowler.'

'T20s, ODIs, some days you might send down five slower balls and get five guys out, when in a Test match they wouldn't have taken one. There is no luck in Test cricket, the better team wins, you cannot take 20 wickets through luck. I was never happy with just white-ball cricket and Test cricket is still the utmost format for me,' Boom Boom told The Guardian.

'I don't know how the youngsters look at it. But Test cricket has been around this long, it will find a way. Every format has its place -- too much Test cricket would be boring, too much white ball the same. I think [the sport needs] a little bit of everything, rather than an overdose of one format or the other.'

The upcoming Test series will be watched keenly whether the Ben Stokes-led England's Bazball tactics will work successfully in Indian conditions.

Bazball has proved to be quite successful for England in the last couple of years since Stokes took over as captain and Brendon McCullum was appointed head coach. But Bumrah is unfazed and is confident that their aggressive style of batting could mean more chances for him to take wickets.

'I don't really relate to the term Bazball. But they are playing successful cricket and the aggressive route of taking the opposition on, showing the world there's another way to play Test cricket.'

'As a bowler, what I think is that it keeps me in play. And if they're going for it, playing so fast, they won't tire me out, I could get heaps [of wickets]. I always think about how I can use things to my advantage. Kudos to them, but as a bowler you're in the game."

IMAGE: Jasprit Bumrah speaks to Captain Rohit Sharma -- a role he says he would be happy to take over in the future if considered for the role. Photograph: BCCI

Bumrah, who led India in the rescheduled Birmingham Test in 2022, says he would be happy to take over the Test captaincy if given a chance in the future.

'I did one game and it was the utmost honour. Playing Test cricket is great, captaining was even better. Yes, we lost, but we were ahead in the match and I loved the responsibility.'

'Sometimes as a fast bowler you go down to fine leg and switch off, but I loved being involved in every decision, right in the thick of things.

'And given the opportunity, of course, who wouldn't? Fast bowlers are the smart ones, they do a hard job and they know what to do around the game.'

Even though his pace is a terror for the batters, as a person Bumrah is quite friendly on the field and doesn't resort to sledges or angry stares like most fast bowlers.

'That is all self-taught. As a fast bowler who learned through watching television, I thought that you had to get angry, you had to have a word with the batsman... and when I started playing junior cricket, I was that guy.

'But in trying to do those antics, I realised that's not me, that's not helping me focus on the job in hand. I had to channel my anger because I am a fast bowler, I do get angry. I don't want to get hit; I'm not here to entertain or give throwdowns, I want wickets, I am here to make you uncomfortable. But I don't want to lose my shape or my zone.

'Playing for India was my dream and when I get tired, I always remind myself of this. That's where the smile is from.

'A cricket career is limited, I won't be doing it forever. I keep talking to myself and keep trying to enjoy it, because it means a lot to me.'

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